Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Parliamentary Luncheon, Canberra, Australia

October 21, 1966

Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Holt, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, Mr. Calwell and Mrs. Calwell, Sir John and Lady McLeay, Mr. Chief Justice and Lady Barwick, Your Excellencies, Premiers of States, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen:

As I sat here and was privileged to hear the Right Honorable Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, I deeply wished that my parents were alive to hear what they had said about me. First, my father would have enjoyed hearing it, and my mother would have believed it.

Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to say to you and the parliamentarians who honor us here today that this is a most unique occasion. But the truth of the business is, our Congress has me for lunch every day.

I have so many memories of Australia. There was a sign I remember over a tavern yonder in Melbourne which read: "U.S. Colonels Under 21 Will Not Be Served Unless Accompanied By Parents."

And there are other memories of this great country that I recall so well.

Like every other man who is separated from his homeland in time of war, I was in need of friends. Here in your Australia I was treated as if I were in the house of my own family. Australia became my second home.

As a Texan, I feel that this land of vast spaces, of farms, ranches, of sheep and cattle, of booming cities and of dynamic industrial growth, is my own.

As an American, I am struck by how much we have in common. I see that wherever I turn--from your lively democratic politics, to your devotion to education, to your interest in the exploration of space, to the robust expansion of your society, and to your intelligent interest in relations with other nations.

The foundations of the friendship between our two nations are deep, and they are increasing.

In the 3 years as President that I shall finish on November 23d, former Prime Minister Menzies visited me in Washington three times. Prime Minister Holt also came three times. Yes, we live at a time when foreign affairs go beyond their traditional scope. There are now strong new ties in the domestic life of our countries. These new ties come:

--From modern communications, which bring instantly to the homes of citizens of every country the news of events from around the world;

--From modern weapons, which make the threat of war anywhere a life-and death issue for every nation;

--From the way that we are all involved in historic changes, which are reshaping the political life of the planet.

I am speaking of the change from the colonial era to an era when scores of new nations claim rights, claim recognition, and claim identity; the change from old to modern societies, which can bring to their peoples the advantages of modern science and modern technology; the change throughout the world from dependence upon large powers to partnership in the affairs of the planet; and change, still tentative but stubbornly tenacious, from a dangerous cold war to a more stable and peaceful world.

Since 1945 the United States has been found wherever freedom was under attack, or wherever peace was threatened. The stage has shifted from time to time. The stakes have grown as man's capacity for destruction increased.
But America's role has not changed.

With constancy, we have pursued the defense of freedom and we have prevented nuclear destruction. We have patiently labored to build a world order in which both peace and freedom can flourish.

My countrymen have lived so long with crises and danger that we accept, almost as if it were inevitable, the assumption of American concern--concern for the disorders that threaten the peace in all other parts of the world.

We accepted this responsibility, first, because at one time there was no other nation who could do it. For the last 20 years, only under the shadow of our strength could our good friends keep their freedom.

Second, we have learned, at very painful costs, that aggression and upheaval in any part of the world carry the seeds of destruction to free men in all parts of the world.

Finally, since the end of World War II, we have assumed this responsibility for a reason that is often difficult for others to understand. We have accepted responsibility because we have believed it to be right that we should do so.

Of course, our policies are shaped with a proper regard for our security and our welfare. But much of the energy of our efforts has come because we believe it is right--we believe that it is right that the strong should help the weak defend their freedom. We believe that it is right that the wealthy should help the poor overcome their hunger; that nations, no matter how small or fragile, or young, should be free from the coercion of others.

We have steadily resisted Communist efforts to bring about by force and intrigue a world dominated by a single ideology. Our convictions, our interests, our life as a nation demand that we oppose, with all the strength that we can muster, any effort to put this world in anyone's straitjacket.

On continent after continent, in dozens of countries, hundreds of millions of people struggle today to exist on incomes of scarcely more than a dollar a week. Many people have less to spend each day on their food and shelter, on their clothing and on their medicine, on all of their needs, than the average Australian spends for a package of cigarettes. They live in shacks hardly worth the name. They live without heat, water, sanitation, and promise.

Their children know no schools, few doctors, no hospitals. They can rarely expect to live to be 40 years of age. And they mark those years with the weary and ancient cycle of both misery and monotony.

The per capita product of the developed countries today is in excess of $2,000 per year. In the underdeveloped countries, many of which are in the area of which we speak, it is less than one-tenth of that. And the gap continues to widen.

These are no new conditions. Poverty, hunger, and disease are all as old as man himself. But in our time and in this age there has been a change. And there is more in the offing.

The change is not so much in the realities of life as in the expectations of the future. An association of the hopeful has emerged, and it will be heard.

The shrinking of distances and the spreading of knowledge has made us more aware of other human beings. And it has made them aware of what, too, is within their reach.

They know that the conditions their fathers accepted with resignation are no longer inevitable.

They know that depression and despair are not what their Creator ordained.

And because they know, they yearn. They yearn for their families to live decent lives. They yearn for jobs to give them survival, and, beyond survival, to give them dignity. They yearn for their children to learn to read and to write. They yearn for their hungry to be fed, and their sick to be healed.

They yearn to arrive.

So we must deal today with these urgent drives, the drive for security, the drive for the defense of freedom, for the preservation of independence; the drive for satisfaction, for self-respect, and for equality of justice and opportunity.

I use "we" deliberately. In the early postwar years, the indispensable strength was America's. Now other nations have also gathered strength, and it has now become possible to share the burdens of defense more evenly.

That is what is happening today in Vietnam, where the demands of security and the urge for satisfaction mingle in a single crucible.

There our men stand together--as they have stood before--to check aggression. And there they serve together--as they have served before--to help build and preserve and protect freedom. The raw conflict of one, and the elusive attainments of the other, make their duty more difficult--and make it more essential.

I would like for every Aussie who stands there in the rice paddies on this warm summer day to know that every American and LBJ is with Australia all the way.

I can speak for all Americans, more than a quarter of a million of them who are there, when I say that they know that every Australian standing by their side and back here at home will stand with courage and will stand with honor.

I believe there is a light at the end of what has been a long and lonely tunnel. I say this not just because our men are proving successful on yonder battlefield. I believe it for this reason: There is a widening community of people who are beginning to feel responsible for what is happening in Vietnam.

Of all the signs, this is the brightest. For the unilateral use of power is out of date in an age where there can be no losers in peace and where there can be no victors in war. And the unilateral reach of compassion is limited. What is required--and what we are seeing emerging in Vietnam and throughout all of Asia--is a concert of effort on the part of diverse nations that know that they must work together.

This is the Asia to which I journey. From multiple creeds and cultures, from many races and tongues, is coming an increased momentum of partnership.

This is an Asia that is ancient in its philosophies, its learning and its cultures. Ancient, yes, but it is new in its leadership, new in its achievements, and, most important, new in its aspirations. For free Asia is in the hands of a generation of leaders unfettered by the past and unafraid of the future. They are men who would agree with Thomas Paine, the American patriot, who said in the time of our own country's great Revolution, to which the opposition leader so eloquently referred, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."

Yes, I think these men are conscious that he serves his nation who understands his times. They know that a national spirit comes first, but they know, too, that nationalism is not enough. And they are challenged by the task of leading their people beyond the first steps of political independence. They are caught up in the work of winning their freedom now from the oppression of hunger, illiteracy, and disease, and stifling poverty.

The role of these new leaders is that of the statesmen who follow the revolutionary and of the settler who comes after the pioneer.

There is in history a time for each. And to each, posterity will owe an equal debt. They believe in the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher who more than 2,000 years ago had this to say:

"Of a great leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will all say
'We did this ourselves!'"

And so free Asia has. And the great story of the past year is their story. While the people of South Vietnam and their allies have now begun to turn the tide of battle against aggression, we have seen Japan and we have seen Korea establish normal relations, with the promise of closer cooperation.

We have seen most recently Indonesia pull back from economic collapse and from a most dangerous Communist threat.

We have seen nine Pacific nations, including Australia, come together on their own initiative to form the Asian and Pacific Council.

We have seen Asians gathering to map a regional future in economic development, in education, and in agriculture.

We have seen three nations of Southeast Asia--Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia--take the initiative in seeking and searching for peace in their own region.

We have seen 31 nations participating in the creation most recently of the Asian Development Bank, while the development of the Lower Mekong River Basin goes steadily forward in the face of conflict.

This sense of common destiny is growing all along the arc of free Asia. Initiatives have come from Tokyo, from Seoul, from Manila, from Bangkok, from Kuala Lumput, from Singapore--as well as from here in Canberra.

We in the United States have long been the friends of those who have worked toward unity in Western Europe, toward economic integration in Latin America, and toward stronger regional ties among the young nations of Africa.

We shall also be the friends and partners of those in Asia who want, and are willing now, to work together to fashion their own destiny. From you must come initiative and leadership. From us will come cooperation.

There of course will be growing pains of diversity, but from them will emerge mutual progress that does not ask of any of us the surrender of any of our most vital principles.

The challenge of the new Asia comes to Australia at a conspicuous time in your history. You have already shown that your commitment is a matter of policy and action--not rhetoric.

When your Prime Minister symbolically said in Washington, in speaking of the crisis that faced our men on a faraway battlefront at the moment, that he would go all the way with LBJ, there wasn't a single American that felt that was new information.

There is not a boy who wears the uniform yonder today who hasn't always known that when freedom is at stake, and when honorable men stand in battle shoulder to shoulder, that Australians will go all the way, as Americans will go all the way, not a third of the way, not part of the way, not three-fourths of the way--but all the way, until liberty and freedom have won.

Your nation and its leaders can take great pride in playing a leading role in the Colombo plan.

You have brought tens of thousands of Asian students here to your homes, as I came once--and I shall never forget it--and to your universities.

You have contributed beyond compare, most generously and patiently, to. the planning of the future of the Mekong Valley.

You have been among the early leaders in creating the Asian Development Bank.

You have joined eight other nations who, on their own initiative, have formed the Asian and Pacific Council.

It is only right--right, as I said earlier in my remarks--that Australia become a strong partner in providing the new leadership in the new Asia. Nature gave you good land and it gave you rich natural resources. Your vigorous people have made a good life for themselves and for their children. Your industry has expanded rapidly in the last two decades.

Your insight into Asia, your geographic position, the great integrity of all of your people, have brought you to the edge of the Pacific era--the era of infinite possibilities. And those of us in America who look west-- and those in Asia who look east--will find here in Australia the ideal crossroads.

A quarter of a century ago, the end of colonialism was the dream that beckoned Asia onward. With foreign rule ended, it seemed that all the blessings of a better life would surely come--and come quickly.

I know, I think, something of how they must feel today.

Long ago, as a young man in my native State of Texas, in the years of the great depression, I found my mission: to use the time allotted to me and the full measure of all the energy I could muster, to help man make the most of life; to try to do the greatest good for the greatest number.

As a teacher, as a Congressman, as a Senator, as a Vice President, and now as President of my country--I have had the chance to follow that mission and to try to do those things of which I once, as a boy back in that hill ranch country, could only dream.

But my work is not done. I have come to Australia to warn you: nor is yours. We cannot tire of sacrifice until peace comes to Vietnam. We cannot talk of satisfaction until all the people of Vietnam have a chance to share in the promise that is unfolding here in the Pacific and throughout Asia.

I genuinely and I earnestly believe that that day is on the way, and that day will Soon Come.

Then, and now, I pledge that we are ready and willing to serve as your partners in Asia--until what we can achieve in our time is what we have achieved in our time.

The man who, a quarter of a century ago, sent me here to Australia--Franklin Delano Roosevelt--once prophesied that "one day a generation may possess this land, blessed beyond anything we now know, blessed with those things--material and spiritual--that make man's life abundant. If that is the fashion of your dreaming, then I say: Hold fast to your dream. America needs it."

Well, this afternoon I would amend his vision somewhat. For Franklin Roosevelt did not belong to America; he belonged to the world. And so does his faith in what lies ahead.

I would say, therefore, to the people of the Pacific and to the people of Asia: "if that is the fashion of your dreaming, then I say: Hold fast to your dream. The world needs it."

And the world needs Australia at this critical hour, all the way.

Note: The President spoke at 2:01 p.m. at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. In his opening words he referred to Harold E. Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, and his wife, John McEwen, Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur A. Calwell, Leader of the Australian Labour Party, and his wife, Sir John McLeay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and his wife, and Sir Garfield E. I. Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court, and his wife. Later he referred to, among others, Sir Robert G. Menzies, former Prime Minister of Australia.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Parliamentary Luncheon, Canberra, Australia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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